Participative approach in humanitarian action

The purpose of my volunteering in Nicaragua is to analyze and evaluate hazards, vulnerabilities and capacities of rural communities in front of natural disasters. In order to achieve our goals, my colleague and I have chosen to work with populations. Indeed, I think time of coming from another place, another country, and impose its point of view, its way of making is over.  It’s time to work hand in hand.

Thus, to collect the information that we need, we ask for local populations. Concretely, we do with them workshops: people tell us their daily life, their life throughout the year. They also tell history of their community, disasters or major events which occurred, their impacts, positive or negative on people, infrastructures or environment. At last, they design a map of their own community and situate capacities, resources, vulnerabilities.

This participative approach to collect information has many advantages: it’s a way to involve people who are, by the way, the future beneficiaries of a future project. To get their opinions, points of view is necessary to design a project responding to their needs. Besides, it allows the project team to understand way of thinking of population mainly when staff of this team comes from another country!

It is also a way for populations to be aware they have themselves strengths, they have in their own community resources. Indeed, I could realize often people live their daily life without thinking about how to improve it for example. That’s my feeling. The reason could be eating and surviving are their first worries. Maybe it’s also a cultural reason. However, it seems important that people be aware they are able to change their life if they want to. They are the main actors of their life, they can decide to change it or not.

A participative approach is an opportunity for communities to think about how to improve their life. Activities are a way to suggest people to think. Participation can make a humanitarian response more efficient and effective as it involves the main actors of its action.

A participative approach has many advantages but it also requires, from the staff who leads it, to be able to listen, adapt to situations and continually self-questioning.

 As a volunteer, this way of working is very interesting as it’s an opportunity to meet local people and share with them time, knowledge and points of view. It’s an enrichment of the two sides and I’m happy to learn so much thanks to rural communities of Nicaragua!


By Emmanuelle Legay

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